Founded in 1981 and headquartered in Vernon Hills, Illinois, Baxter Credit Union (BCU) provides banking, business, investment, and credit card services to more than 200,000 members.
BCU is the fastest-growing credit union chartered in the past 30 years. Yet while their member base and service offerings continued to expand, their highly manual reconciliation process hadn’t changed in years. Equally challenging, the process was still favored by long-term employees, and naturally there was slight hesitation to the introduction of any new technology.
According to Charlotte O’Neill, accounting manager at BCU, “We recently surpassed the $2 billion mark in assets. We’re at a whole new level, and we can’t continue to do things the way we’ve been doing them. In business, it’s evolve or die. Change is never easy, but we just needed to help people understand that the process had to change. When you’ve been working at the same place for 20 years and done the same thing for 20 years, change is hard.”
Realizing their existing process would eventually hamper—or even halt—expansion, BCU implemented BlackLine Account Reconciliations. Part of BlackLine’s cloud-based finance controls and automation platform, Account Reconciliations helps finance organizations like BCU automate reconciliations to increase efficiency, control, and visibility.
Prior to the rollout, O’Neill was charged with helping employees understand how using better technology could help the team stay ahead of the credit union’s continued growth. Automating the reconciliation process would also allow accountants to spend time on what they were trained to do—performing analytics, addressing discrepancies, and playing a more strategic role in BCU’s financial longevity—instead of repetitive, low-value tasks.
“We let people know that we didn’t want to grow first and then have to struggle to keep up. It was a balancing act trying to evolve because not everybody can see light at the end of the tunnel,” says O’Neill. “But we’re getting there. People are starting to understand that using BlackLine is a step in the right direction, as well as how accounting affects finance—and how that in turn affects the entire organization.”
Reduced time spent on monthly reconciliations. BlackLine Account Reconciliations has not only enabled accountants to spend less time on the monthly process, but also provided visibility into what more can be done on a tactical and strategic level. “While we only do monthly reconciliations, BlackLine has taken us a step forward in realizing we need to be looking at daily activities related to the process,” says O’Neill. “This is going to be critical to making the accounting department—and the organization—run even more effectively.”
Positioned the organization for continued growth. According to O’Neill, BlackLine is helping BCU stay a step ahead of growth, using fewer resources. “With BlackLine, we’re able to handle our growth and not just with regard to reconciliations. We’ve added so much functionality that we didn’t have before. Yet, we’re probably still only using 50% of BlackLine’s capabilities. We’re only just beginning to understand its impact.”
Gained time to focus on process issues and discrepancies. With BlackLine, accountants are spending less time on manual processes, which leaves more time to address discrepancies. “As we grew, process issues were coming up and getting harder to identify,” says O’Neill. “But with BlackLine, we’ve streamlined the reconciliation process and now have more visibility into errors. We also have more time to work with business owners on outstanding issues.”
Increased transparency with better reporting. BCU’s previous reconciliation process lacked strong reporting capabilities, making true transparency next to impossible. With BlackLine, accounting and finance departments can now view all transactions, tasks, and discrepancies in real time via simple reporting tools.
“Modern Finance is about increasing transparency, and BlackLine has opened up a whole new world for us. It’s so much easier for Accounting to put data into a format that finance can easily use,” says O’Neill. “It also enables us to give our CFO more up-to-date information, which in turn helps him make better decisions for BCU.”